Wayne State University Press‘s celebration of the 10th anniversary of their Made in Michigan series happened Thursday evening at the Hilberry Theatre in Detroit.

A fascinating panel of five Made in Michigan authors read from their latest books:  Desiree Cooper (Know the Mother), Michael Delp (Lying in the Dark River’s Bed), Zilka Joseph (Sharp Blue Search of Flame), M.L. Liebler  (I Want to Be Once), L.E. Kimball (Seasonal Road). Then the writers discussed their writing process, moderated by Annie Martin, WSU Press Senior Acquisitions Editor.

But there was more.

On-the-Spot Poetry

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 11.47.48 AMBefore and after: good food, a cash bar, a table of great books . . . and one fascinating event that continued throughout the entire three-hour event. Several of Detroit’s InsideOut Literary Arts Project student participants sat at vintage typewriters and within seven (7!) minutes wrote an on-the-spot poem on any subject given to them.

Just consider, they did this with: no delete function, no Wite-Out, no starting over.

Poet Ashley Rae on Islands

Poet Ashley Rae got the subject of—no real surprise here—“Great Lakes Basin island” from me. Just look what she did with it:

i am floating,


i am drifting away always.

some days i do not know if i even have a shore.

most days the only thing i am sure of is that

i have never stopped floating from the moment

from the moment i drifted into this atmosphere

i knew that sinking,

just was not an option for me.

— Ashley Rae

The InsideOut Literary Arts Project

“The InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO) began in 1995 in five Detroit high schools, with weekly classroom visits by a writer-in-residence, the publication of a literary journal for each school, and the mission of encouraging students to use poetry to ‘think broadly, create bravely, and share their voices with the wider world.'”

“Twenty years later, the program serves some five thousand K–12 students per year, has received national exposure and accolades (including a recent visit to the White House), and has seen numerous student writers recognized for their creativity and performance.” (from the WSU Press description of To Light a Fire)

Consider Contributing to the iO Current

The InsideOut Literary Arts Project provides islands of creativity for young people . . .  as well as an excellent opportunity for the rest of us to contribute to the buoyancy required for young writers to begin to practice floating before eventually swimming off their islands to the mainland, possibly with each stroke they make becoming more confident that “sinking just [is] not an option.”


iO Poet Ashley Rae with an admirer

Perhaps a seven-minute poem typed on a vintage typewriter could be considered a small thing, at least at first, on the surface.

But, really, what a world-changer!

To Light a Fire

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 11.19.06 AMYou can learn more about InsideOut and founder Terry Blackhawk in her book, co-authored with Peter Markus,  To Light a Fire.